One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.
When an international airfare came along for more than half off the regular price, I could not resist the temptation and immediately booked it. That’s the story of how I ended up traveling to Israel for $350 roundtrip, including taxes. This was not the first time I traveled half-way across the world for under $400, nor will it be the last.
Letting the fare dictate the destination usually brings me to more obscure places, but in this case I was returning to a place I had been previously, albeit for a very different type of trip this time around. After booking this trip months in advance, we landed in Tel Aviv just as tensions escalated between Gaza and Israel. As with several countries in the Middle East and Africa, there can be risks involved in traveling. But there are also steps you can take to stay safe, like hiring a tour guide and registering with the U.S. State Department.
Touring Israel can take you from desert to snow-capped mountains, so to see it all your best bet is to hire a private tour guide. Navigating on your own can be simple if you rent a car, but tour guides in Israel go through a rigorous certification and continuing education process. The cost is not much more than booking a group tour either, so it’s definitely worth considering.
To really get the full experience, travelers should attempt to visit different regions of the country to absorb the complex landscape. If time is of the essence, spend a couple of days in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and quick trip to the Dead Sea (stopping at Masada, an ancient mountaintop fortress, along the way). This itinerary gives you a taste of modern, cosmopolitan Israel (Tel Aviv) and thousands of years of history (Jerusalem). In Jerusalem, a walk around the Old City and holy sites are a must, but just outside the fortifications is the City of David where you can walk through an ancient water tunnel constructed in 701 BC. Other must-see attractions in the area include Mahane Yehuda open-air food market and the Dead Sea Scrolls (written as far back as 400 BC), housed in the Israel Museum.
Had enough history? Move on to Tel Aviv, Israel’s bustling city on the shore. If the weather is nice, relax on the beach watching surfers take on the waves. My trip was during the fall, so swimming in the ocean was out of the question for me, so instead I took a stroll down Rothschild Street, home to many of the trendy restaurants in town. Another essential neighborhood to visit is Neve Tzedek, which is artistic center of Tel Aviv. It’s a great area to shop for art, jewelry, clothing or any other type of souvenirs. No trip would be complete though without a visit to the ancient port of Jaffa, just south of the city center. Jaffa’s market it full of antiques (although some junk as well, so be careful).
There are so many more things to see in Israel, but the above is for the quick trip. Other highlights include a jeep ride in the beautiful Golan Heights in the North, a tour of the ancient port of Caesarea and visiting the home of Kabbalah in Safed.